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Data and Statistics on Children's Mental Health

Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day.1 Among the more common mental disorders that can be diagnosed in childhood are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and behavior disorders. Facts about mental disorders in U.S. children.

There are different ways to estimate which children have difficulties with mental health. CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, uses surveys, like the National Survey of Children’s Health, to understand which children have diagnosed mental disorders and whether they received treatment. In this type of survey, parents report on the diagnoses their child has received from a healthcare provider. Learn more facts about children’s mental disorders below.


  • Abuse and neglect during infancy or early childhood can cause regions of the brain to form and function improperly with long-term consequences on cognitive and language abilities, socioemotional development, and mental health.For example, the stress of chronic abuse may cause a “hyperarousal” response in certain areas of the brain, which may result in hyperactivity and sleep disturbances4,5

  • Children may experience severe or fatal head trauma as a result of abuse. Nonfatal consequences of abusive head trauma include varying degrees of visual impairment (e.g., blindness), motor impairment (e.g., cerebral palsy) and cognitive impairments. 6

  • Children who experience abuse and neglect are also at increased risk for adverse health effects and certain chronic diseases as adults, including heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, liver disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high levels of C-reactive protein. 7,8,9


  • In one long-term study, as many as 80% of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21. These young adults exhibited many problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts10

  • The stress of chronic abuse may result in anxiety and may make victims more vulnerable to problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, conduct disorder, and learning, attention, and memory difficulties. 4,5

  • Youth who have experienced child abuse and neglect receive more medications for depression, anxiety, and other issues than other youth in psychiatric care. 11,12


  • Children who experience abuse and neglect are at increased risk for smoking, alcoholism, and drug abuse as adults, as well as engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors.7,13

  • Those with a history of child abuse and neglect are 1.5 times more likely to use illicit drugs, especially marijuana, in middle adulthood.14

  • Abused and neglected children are about 25% more likely to experience problems such as delinquency, teen pregnancy, and low academic achievement.15 One study found that physically abused children were at greater risk of being arrested as juveniles, being a teen parent, and not graduating high school.16

  • A National Institute of Justice study indicated that being abused or neglected as a child increased the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 59%. Abuse and neglect also increased the likelihood of adult criminal behavior by 28% and violent crime by 30%.17

  • Child abuse and neglect can have a negative effect on the ability of people to establish and maintain healthy intimate relationships in adulthood.18

The Consequences

Mental Disorder Statistics

The Consequences - continued

Facts about mental disorders in U.S. children

ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children

  • 9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis. 2

  • 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem. 3

  • 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety. 3

  • 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. 3

Some of these conditions commonly occur together. For example:

  • Having another disorder is most common in children with depression: about 3 in 4 children aged 3-17 years with depression also have anxiety (73.8%) and almost 1 in 2 have behavior problems (47.2%). 3

  • For children aged 3-17 years with anxiety, more than 1 in 3 also have behavior problems (37.9%) and about 1 in 3 also have depression (32.3%). 3

  • For children aged 3-17 years with behavior problems, more than 1 in 3 also have anxiety (36.6%) and about 1 in 5 also have depression (20.3%). 3

Depression and anxiety have increased over time

  • “Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression” among children aged 6–17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012. 4

  • “Ever having been diagnosed with anxiety” increased from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2011–2012. 4

  • “Ever having been diagnosed with depression” did not change between 2007 (4.7%) and 2011-2012 (4.9%). 4

Treatment rates vary among different mental disorders

  • Nearly 8 in 10 children (78.1%) aged 3-17 years with depression received treatment. 3

  • 6 in 10 of children (59.3%) aged 3-17 years with anxiety received treatment. 3

  • More than 5 in 10 children (53.5%) aged 3-17 years with behavior disorders received treatment. 3

Mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders begin in early childhood

  • 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. 5

Rates of mental disorders change with age

  • Diagnoses of depression and anxiety are more common with increased age. 3

  • Behavior problems are more common among children aged 6–11 years than children younger or older. 3

References - "The Consequences"
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2019). Child maltreatment 2019. [online] Available from: Child Maltreatment 2019.  This latest report presents national data about child abuse and neglect known to child protective services agencies in the United States during federal fiscal year 2019. 

  2. Finkelhor D, Turner HA, Shattuck A, Hamby SL. Prevalence of childhood exposure to violence, crime, and abuse: Results from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence. JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(8), 746-754.

  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families. Understanding the effects of maltreatment on early brain development. Washington (DC): Government Printing Office; 2001. Available from: Cdc-pdf[453KB, 21Pages, Print Only]External.

  4. Dallam SJ. The long-term medical consequences of childhood maltreatment. In: Franey K, Geffner R, Falconer R, editors. The cost of child maltreatment: Who pays? We all do. 2001. San Diego (CA): Family Violence & Sexual Assault Institute.

  5. Perry BD. The neurodevelopmental impact of violence in childhood. In: Schetky D, Benedek E, editors. Textbook of child and adolescent forensic psychiatry. Washington (DC): American Psychiatric Press; 2001. p. 221–238.

  6. National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. [online] 2009 [cited 2009 Apr 07]. Available from: http://www.dontshake.comExternal.

  7. Felitti V, Anda R, Nordenberg D, Williamson DF, Spitz AM, Edwards V, Koss MP, Marks JS. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Am J Prev Med. 1998; 14(4):245–258.

  8. Danese A, Moffitt TE, Harrington H, Milne BJ, Polanczyk G, Pariante CM, et al. (2009). Adverse childhood experiences and adult risk factors for age-related disease. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;163(12):1135–1143.

  9. Gilbert LK, Breiding MJ, Merrick MT, et al. Childhood adversity and adult chronic disease: an update from ten states and the District of Columbia, 2010. Am J Prev Med. Mar 2015;48(3):345-349.

  10. Silverman AB, Reinherz HZ, Giaconia RM. The long-term sequelae of child and adolescent abuse: a longitudinal community study. Child Abuse Negl. 1996;20(8):709–723.

  11. Keeshin BR, Strawn JR, Luebbe AM, et al. Hospitalized youth and child abuse: a systematic examination of psychiatric morbidity and clinical severity. Child Abuse Negl. 2014;38(1):76-83. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.08.013.

  12. Leslie LK, Raghavan R, Zhang J, Aarons GA. Rates of psychotropic medication use over time among youth in child welfare/child protective services. J Child Adol Psychop. 2010;20(2):135-143. doi:10.1089/cap.2009.0065.

  13. Runyan D, Wattam C, Ikeda R, Hassan F, Ramiro L. Child abuse and neglect by parents and other caregivers. In: Krug E, Dahlberg LL, Mercy JA, Zwi AB, Lozano R, editors. World report on violence and health. Geneva,Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2002. p. 59–86. Available from: Cdc-pdf[176KB, 30Pages, Print Only]External.

  14. Widom C, Marmorstein N, White H. Childhood victimization and illicit drug use in middle adulthood. Psychol Addict Behav. 2006; 20(4):394–403.

  15. Kelley BT, Thornberry TP, Smith CA. In the wake of childhood maltreatment. 1997. Washington (DC): National Institute of Justice.

  16. Langsford JE, Miller-Johnson S, Berlin LJ, Dodge KA, Bates JE, Pettit GS. Early physical abuse and later violent delinquency: a prospective longitudinal study. Child Maltreat. 2007;12(3):233–245.

  17. Widom C S, Maxfield MG. An update on the “cycle of violence.” Washington (DC): National Institute of Justice; 2001. Available from: Cdc-pdf[126KB, 8Pages, Print Only]External.

  18. Colman R, Widom C. (). Childhood abuse and neglect and adult intimate relationships: A prospective study. Child Abuse Negl. 2004; 28(11):1133–1151.

  19. Fang X, Brown DS, Florence CS, Mercy JA. The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention. Child Abuse Negl. 2012;36(2), 156–165.

References - "Facts About Mental Disorders in U.S. Children"

  1. Perou R, Bitsko RH, Blumberg SJ, Pastor P, Ghandour RM, Gfroerer JC, Hedden SL, Crosby AE, Visser SN, Schieve LA, Parks SE, Hall JE, Brody D, Simile CM, Thompson WW, Baio J, Avenevoli S, Kogan MD, Huang LN. Mental health surveillance among children – United States, 2005—2011. MMWR 2013;62(Suppl; May 16, 2013):1-35. [Read summary]

  2. Danielson ML, Bitsko RH, Ghandour RM, Holbrook JR, Blumberg SJ.  Prevalence of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis and associated treatment among U.S. children and adolescents, 2016.  Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.Published online before print January 24, 2018. [Read articleExternal]

  3. Ghandour RM, Sherman LJ, Vladutiu CJ, Ali MM, Lynch SE, Bitsko RH, Blumberg SJ. Prevalence and treatment of depression, anxiety, and conduct problems in U.S. children. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2018. Published online before print  October 12, 2018 [Read summaryExternal]

  4. Bitsko RH, Holbrook JR, Ghandour RM, Blumberg SJ, Visser SN, Perou R, Walkup J. Epidemiology and impact of healthcare provider diagnosed anxiety and depression among US children. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Published online before print April 24, 2018 [Read summaryExternal]

  5. Cree RA, Bitsko RH, Robinson LR, Holbrook JR, Danielson ML, Smith DS, Kaminski JW, Kenney MK, Peacock G. Health care, family, and community factors associated with mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders and poverty among children aged 2–8 years — United States, 2016. MMWR, 2018;67(5):1377-1383. [Read article]

  6. Visser SN, Danielson ML, Bitsko RH, Perou R, Blumberg SJ. Convergent validity of parent-reported attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnosis: A cross-study comparison. JAMA Pediatrics. 2013; 167(7):674-675. [Read articleExternal]

  7. US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration & Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Mental health: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, and National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health; 1999. [Read reportExternal]

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